feat. a Korean-Canadian is a blog series highlighting Korean-Canadians and their experiences, perspectives and thoughts on their identity as Korean-Canadians.
This blog features Andrea Bang, an actor/writer based out of Vancouver. She is best known as Janet from CBC’s Kim’s Convenience. She also makes short videos called Inanimate Funnies available on her website and her latest project was co-directing and co-writing a short film called Karaoke Mamas, available now on STORYHIVE.
Being born and raised in Canada, how do you answer the question, “Where are you from?”
“Where are you from?” isn’t a difficult question to answer for me. My answer is simply Canada. What makes it difficult is the person asking the question. More times than not, what they’re actually asking is, “Which Asian country are you from?”. At one point in time, it happened so often I just answered, “I was born in Canada and my parents were born in Korea.” Many exploding heads and furrowed brows were diverted with that answer.
Do you feel pressured to present yourself a certain way because of your Korean heritage?
No. But definitely I felt some pressure when I was younger and discovering who I was as a person, especially during a time when Korea wasn’t really on anyone’s radar. I felt like I was representing a secret culture. I went through a phase when I was 13, where I would bow to the older Korean students in high school and say “annyeonghaseyo” (formal hello in Korean) and absorb K-pop/K-drama like juice. But now, being Korean can mean so many things that I don’t feel pressured to be one specific way.
Since being on Kim’s Convenience, what does being a Korean-Canadian mean to you? How do you think the show is portraying Korean-Canadians?
I am proud to be Korean. I am proud to be Canadian. I am proud to be a person. And that’s what Kim’s Convenience represents to me: inclusion. It’s about a Korean-Canadian family, but at the end of the day it’s about a regular family with all their quirks, flaws and love. What’s amazing is that people of all different backgrounds have come up to me to say Appa reminds them of their dad or Umma reminds them of their mom and in that way I think the show is portraying Korean-Canadians to be like everyone else! The reason some people don’t accept the “I’m from Canada.” answer is because families like the Kim’s weren’t represented and now we are. And now I’m rarely asked, “Where are you from?” and when I am and say “I’m from Canada.”, more times than not, people say, “Cool!”.
So your latest project is a short film that you co-directed and co-wrote with your sister, Diana Bang called Karaoke Mamas. What is it about?
Karaoke Mamas is about a divorced 62 year-old Korean-Canadian woman who jumpstarts her new life by trying to win a TV at a karaoke competition, with the help of her two best friends.
I got to watch the film, which is hilarious! And it was interesting that the main characters were Korean-Canadian ajummas (older ladies). Why did you choose to focus your characters on them?
We knew that we wanted to feature Korean-Canadian women in their sixties. It was important because they were who we knew and grew up around – these powerful, sassy, hilarious women. But these women are not represented in western media so we wanted to showcase them in all their awesomeness. We put them in roles where they were the stars and driving force, and man, they were amazing! We couldn’t have done this project without the Korean community in Vancouver. My mom helped cast the film, her friends donated their time as background and Wayne from Joy Karaoke graciously let us use his karaoke joint. I hope people enjoy the film!
Thank you, Andrea for the interview. It was such a pleasure watching Karaoke Mamas and I look forward to the next season of Kim’s Convenience as well!
Karaoke Mamas is now available on STORYHIVE and check out Andrea’s website, http://www.inanimatefunnies.com. As well, please leave a comment below about your thoughts on Asian representation on mainstream media or about Andrea’s amazing projects.